I previously reviewed the Joseph Bentley long-handled bulb planter (which was terrific – read the review here) so I was looking forward to working with their new 7-inch, wood-handled secateurs. Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed.
Note: This review is based on my use of two new pairs of secateurs from Joseph Bentley. Both were the same model and came from the same production batch.
Unlike most pruning shears (but consistent with the kind of tools that Joseph Bentley is known for), these pruners have FSC certified wood handles (meaning that 100% of the wood comes from well-managed forests). Unfortunately, the wooden handles on both pruners were rough and had splinters. The wood was not well fitted against the metal parts, leaving gaps and uneven surfaces.
The metal in the handle had obvious tool marks and rough areas where it wasn’t smoothed after casting.
I’m not sure if it’s a design issue or a quality problem, but on both pruners the handles didn’t align properly; when you close the blades, the handles move slightly sideways instead of straight back and forth.
The Joseph Bentley secateurs come with a 15 year guarantee against faulty workmanship and component failure under “domestic gardening use.” But be aware that you must register online to qualify for this guarantee.
Problems With Cutting / Blades
This bypass pruner has carbon steel blades and is recommended for light pruning and cutting flowers and herbs. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it for deadwood or anything other than softer stems.
On one set of secateurs, the carbon steel blades didn’t sit flush against each other – the cutting blade appeared to be slightly warped (it touched the other blade at the tip and pivot point only, leaving a slight gap between the two blades which made for less efficient cutting and created significant wear at the tip of both blades).
On both pruners the cutting action was “off” – although the blades were sharp, they didn’t cut cleanly or easily. Perhaps it has something to do with the misaligned handles…
The “anvil” blade is unexpectedly thick. Normally, you’d prune with the sharpened blade against the part of the stem that’s not being removed, but that’s not always possible. In those cases, you want the flexibility to also make a close, clean cut with the sharpened blade on the outside of the cut. The design of the Joseph Bentley secateurs makes that impossible.
On the positive side, the cutting blade, spring, and thumb lock are replaceable and don’t need any special tools to remove or replace, just a screwdriver and/or a small set of pliers.
Poorly-Placed Locking Mechanism
The blade lock is poorly positioned. While it’s possible to open or close the lock with your right thumb while holding the pruning shears, once it’s open the lock gets in the way of your thumb when cutting. You have to keep your thumb lifted away from the secateurs while pruning, or you’ll end up jamming it into the locking mechanism and/or inadvertently locking it.
I experienced two different problems with the locking mechanisms on the two pairs of pruners. On one, the lock interfered with the movement of the spring when in the unlocked position, rubbing a worn spot into the surface of the spring. On the other, it was impossible to close the lock at all; either one part was too big, or the other was too small but, whatever the reason, the parts simply wouldn’t fit together.
The spring appears to be oddly positioned, such that only half of it compresses with each pruning cut. Strangely, the spring fit differently on the two pruners, although both had the same compression issue.
The spring also left a lot of black oily residue on the spring and visible wearing on the surface. Even after 5+ years of use, I’ve never seen that kind of wear on the springs of my Felco pruners.
The spring is very stiff so it takes a fair bit of force to close the blades and gets very tiring after using the pruners for only a short while.
Uncomfortable Design / Grip
These pruners are not made for smaller hands. The design is such that your hand ends up slipping toward the blades with each cut, leaving your fingers uncomfortably close to the blades. The metal shoulder of the handle digs into the space between your thumb and forefinger. After less than 5 minutes of pruning, I had a red, raw spot at the base of my thumb (keep in mind that I’m a licensed arborist who does a lot of pruning – my hands are tougher than the average homeowner). My husband, with his larger and stronger hands, was able to use the pruners without too much difficulty but insisted on wearing gloves due to the rough wooden surface of the handles.
These pruners are heavier than those made with composite handles. Combined with the stiff spring, that makes them tiring for extended use.
Where to Buy
In the USA, Joseph Bentley products can be easily purchased on Amazon for about $25.
Buy it here: Joseph Bentley Traditional Garden Tools Carbon Steel Shaped Secateurs, 7-Inch
We give the Joseph Bentley 7-inch curved secateurs a 1-shovel rating due to the poor quality workmanship and fit of the component parts, uncomfortable design, weight, and uneven cutting performance. This is one pair of pruning shears that you won’t miss if it’s not in your gardening tool bag.
Editor’s Note: These pruners are not representative of the type of quality I’ve come to expect from Joseph Bentley. Overall, it appears that they’re experiencing significant quality control problems with the manufacturer in China (where the pruners are made). When I pointed out the defects to the company, they were surprised and disappointed. They immediately sent me a second pruner to try. Unfortunately, it also had quality and design problems. I’m curious to see whether they’re able to resolve the issues and get back to making fine wooden gardening tools.
And now over to you – Which pruning shears have you used? What did you like or not like about them? Let us know in the comments below.
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Disclaimer – GPR would like to thank Joseph Bentley for giving us a free pair of secateurs to review. There was no expectation that it would be a positive review and we received no compensation for writing it. All opinions expressed here are those of the author based on personal experience using the product.
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